Birds Population Decline Reflects Our Environmental Condition
Birds are one of the animals we encounter daily. But did you know that birds are experiencing a population decline worldwide? Beyond biodiversity decline, bird decline also reflects the state of our collapsing environment.
Why are birds important?
A report by BirdLife International titled “State of the World’s Birds 2022” provides insights into the bird population crisis and the necessary solutions. BirdLife International is a global partnership of 119 non-governmental organizations with the common goal of conserving birds and their habitats.
Birds can act as barometers for environmental health. This is because birds are sensitive to environmental change, not to mention they are extremely well-studied species with relatively well-known and stable taxonomy. Currently, there are over 11,000 living bird species across the globe, and many of them are identifiable through observation alone.
Like any other species, birds have their own places in the ecosystems. They act as predators, pollinators, seed dispersers, scavengers, and ecosystem engineers, among many others. Interacting, watching, and hearing birds also positively influence human well-being. Studies show that the abundance of birds is associated with less depression, anxiety, and stress in people.
Why is the bird population declining?
Approximately 187 bird species are suspected to have gone extinct since 1500. The report reveals that 49% of bird species (5,421) worldwide have declining populations. Indonesia tops the list of countries with the most significant number of globally threatened bird species, with 162 species. The report further notes that more threatened species are found in tropical than temperate latitudes.
The threats currently impacting the most significant number of globally threatened bird species are:
- Agricultural expansion and intensification (1,026 species, 73%)
- Logging (710 species, 50%)
- Invasive and other problematic species (567 species, 40%)
- Hunting (529 species, 38%)
- Climate change (479 species, 34%)
Both the habitats and the individuals suffer significant impacts. Habitat conversion and degradation, individual birds’ mortality rate, reduced reproductive success, and increased competition are cited as the effects caused by the threats above, with most species are more likely to be affected by more than one threat.
What are the next steps?
Fortunately, the report says, the solutions are available. The report proposes a list of actions to help the recovery of the threatened bird species and nature. The full list of recommended actions involves actors across stakeholders and sectors, so collaborations and commitments are crucial. Among them, there are:
- Protecting and effectively managing essential sites for birds and other biodiversity.
- Conserving important sites through long-established sustainable management practices by Indigenous Peoples or local communities.
- Preventing overexploitation and illegal killing of birds through strong national and international legislation backed up by effective enforcement, monitoring, and engagement with various stakeholders.
- Minimizing impacts of energy infrastructure through avian sensitivity mapping to reduce the clash between wildlife and renewable energy development.
- Mainstreaming biodiversity across society by scaling up investment in conservation to ensure that nature is widely integrated into public policies and the decision-making and planning process.
Read the full report here.
Editor: Nazalea Kusuma
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Madina is an In-House Reporter & Researcher at Green Network Asia. She covers Global, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Australasia.